There have been numerous instances in which an individual violates criminal law because they feel that there is no other feasible option. In instances such as this, a defense attorney may choose to utilize the defense of necessity. The defense of necessity is not often recognized as a common defense in criminal law, but it has been widely used in common law.
In order for the claim of necessity to be recognized as an acceptable defense, various different factors must be satisfied. Primarily, the defendant must have taken part in the criminal activity in order to avoid more severe or significant injury or damage. In instances such as these, the defendant may have been provided with two alternatives.
While the first alternative may not have resulted in a violation of criminal law on the part of the defendant, it may have resulted in further injury or destruction. Therefore, the defendant may have chosen to take part in the second option that they were presented with, because even though this option may have violated criminal law, it may have also reduced suffering or damage.
Many courts recognize that in some very specific and rare instances, an individual may be required to break the law out of necessity, in order to reduce the extent of the harm or the destruction that occurs. One commonly used example of the defense of necessity surrounds hit-and-run laws. Many states have developed legislation that makes it a violation of criminal law for an individual to leave the scene of an accident if they were involved in it.
If an individual is involved in an accident and their passenger is severely injured, it could be fatal to wait for emergency services to arrive at the scene of the accident. Nevertheless, if the individual chooses to leave the site of the accident, then they are breaking the law.
If the individual ensures that the people in the other vehicle are okay and chooses to leave the accident site in order to rush their passenger to the hospital, then the defense attorney will utilize the necessity defense, as the defendant believed that in order to save their passenger’s life it was essential to get them to a hospital immediately.
The necessity defense is only effective if there is no legal alternative available to avoid the harm or the damage at the time that the illegal behavior took place. The defense attorney must prove that the illegal behavior stopped more extensive harm or damage from occurring. If a diabetic individual is shopping in a pharmacy and their blood sugar increases severely, their body needs to receive insulin right away.
If insulin is not administered then the victim may go into diabetic shock and may even slip into a coma. If the pharmacist at the store assesses the situation and decides to provide the individual with insulin without a prescription, then technically the pharmacist has taken part in an illegal activity and may face criminal charges. However, the pharmacist determined that to the best of their knowledge failure to provide the victim with the medicine may have resulted in severe harm to the victim and potentially even death.
Therefore, the pharmacist was acting out of necessity and the defense attorney will utilize this defense in order to negate any criminal liability that the pharmacist may posses. In criminal law, the defense of necessity is tricky and complex. However, when utilized correctly and appropriately, this defense may be successful in negating or decreasing the criminal responsibility of the defendant.